When I began regularly posting comments on Slashdot, I had a motivation. Every time I posted something good, I was rewarded with karma beans.
After I amassed about 25 of these beans, I was given the ability to "speak louder" with a +1 bonus. I got fewer beans per good comment, but my comments were more noticeable, so my bean hill grew faster.
When my mountain of beans grew to 50, I found (as expected) that I could no longer acquire beans. In fact, if three people modded my comments up and then one person modded a comment down for being moderated to high, I would lose a bean! The only logical thing I could do to protect my mountain was to keep my mouth shut, which I did.
A funny thing happens when a person shuts his mouth... he tends to hear a lot more. What I heard was that other people in the same situation were looking for ways to "spend" their karma. After all, they had earned it, so why couldn't they spend it?
Some people griped publicly about the existence of a karma cap, others complained about the non-existence of a karma store, and others went karma-postal -- they decided to blow their karma by being the biggest, loudest trolls they could muster.
All these people
- Were positive contributers, and
- Had lost their artificial impetus to contribute
So I think the karma cap ultimately hurt Slashdot by discouraging these contributors who have moved on to Troll-world, Abraham-Simpson-world, or silent retirement.
Open a karma store where positive contributors can cash in their beans... and their cash. 50 karma beans plus $9.99 plus shipping plus tax (where applicable) gets you a beanie propeller cap with the words "I'm a 'karma whore'|'Slashdot nerd' emblazoned on the front. The first time you buy one you get yellow. Next time you get blue. Then another color, until you reach green, and finally black.
I envision a day when I can look out across a cubicle farm and tell the true nerds by the color of their beanies; and workers can be heard proudly stating "I have a Black Cap in Slashdot."
Thank you for sharing my dream.